Puyallup: News

‘In war times, you don’t have time to think things out.’ D-Day veteran shares story of service

He did not have time for fear, said D-day veteran

Douglas Scott, 96, of Spanaway, Wash., said he thinks often of friends he fought next to on the beaches of Normandy, France, in 1944. Many of them never came home, Scott said.
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Douglas Scott, 96, of Spanaway, Wash., said he thinks often of friends he fought next to on the beaches of Normandy, France, in 1944. Many of them never came home, Scott said.

On the morning of June 6, 1944, more than 150,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of coast in Normandy, France.

One of the soldiers arriving at Omaha Beach was Douglas Scott. His friends call him Scotty.

He was 21 years old, and he was aboard a landing craft he wasn’t even supposed to be on.

A soldier he knew wanted to go into battle side by side with his brother, who was in another landing craft. So Scott traded places with him.

Later, he found out both brothers died in the battle.

“I’m still here. That’s all I can say, (is) I’m lucky,” Scott said.

I’m still here. That’s all I can say, (is) I’m lucky.

Douglas Scott

Scott remembered parts of his experience of D-Day, an invasion by the Allied Forces during World War II, while recounting that day 73 years ago in his home in Spanaway. Now 96 years old, some memories are fading. Others, he remembers clearly.

Scott grew up in a big farmhouse in Pe Ell in Lewis County. His parents split shortly before he was born, and he lived with his mother. She owned a restaurant there which served breakfast, lunch and dinner.

He liked to do things most kids do, like go to the local store for candy, Popsicles and bubble gum. But his childhood was shorter than most.

When he was 9 years old, Scott moved to Puyallup to live with his grandmother. The Great Depression hit, and as the only male child in the family, he needed a job. He lied about his age to get one — a common thing to do at the time, he said. He worked on the Grand Coulee Dam through the Civil Conservation Corps (CCC), a work relief program and part of former President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal that provided young men with employment on environmental projects.

“They took half of my wage and gave it to my grandmother,” Scott said. “That was the way a lot of things were going back them. They got a check every month and I got some clean clothes.”

They took half of my wage and gave it to my grandmother. That was the way a lot of things were going back them. They got a check every month and I got some clean clothes.

Douglas Scott

In 1942, Scott was drafted into military service. He attended basic training at then-Fort Lewis, then more training at Camp Abbott in Oregon. Not long after, a train took him and other troops east, and before they knew it, they were on a boat to England.

Scott was an amphibious engineer. His job was to detect mines and other explosives in their path. He didn’t leave room in his mind for thoughts of being scared.

“We didn’t really think about that,” Scott said. “Someone had to do it.”

But on the morning of D-Day, his landing craft several yards from the shore, job titles were moot. The soldiers around him were seasick, including the soldier on his landing craft that was responsible for manning the machine gun.

“They took him off and put me up there,” Scott recalled.

And then it came time to leave the landing craft. The water was cold, and much deeper than Scott expected. The water was over his head.

“It wasn’t a walk,” Scott said. “It was a swim for a while — and that water was cold ... It was rough.”

It wasn’t a walk. It was a swim for a while — and that water was cold ... It was rough.

Douglas Scott

Around him, soldiers drowned, weighed down from their gear. Scott cut off his own gear with a service knife in order to swim.

The memories fade when he gets to shore.

“In war times, you don’t have time to think things out,” Scott said.

After that day, Scott became an infantry soldier, switching jobs as his troop traveled throughout Europe. In Bavaria, Germany, he guarded prisoners of war. There, he traded cigarettes for a hand-carved statue. He still has it. Sometimes when he looks at it, memories come back.

When the war ended, Scott was an honor guard at the signing of peace treaties. In 1945, he went home.

“I thought it was beautiful to be home and walk on a piece of gravel that wasn’t blown half to bits,” he said.

Scott was awarded more than a dozen medals and awards for his service, including a Combat Infantry Badge and a Bronze Star Medal.

Douglas Scott was awarded more than a dozen medals and awards for his service, including a Combat Infantry Badge and a Bronze Star Medal.

Following the war, Scott worked as a truck driver for most of his life. For years, he helped at the Washington State Fair, driving around the train in Sillyville or emptying garbage. He’s been married to his wife, Betty, for 70 years. They knew each other since they were kids.

“They used to play together as kids in Puyallup,” said Christine, Scott’s daughter.

Earlier this year, President Donald J. Trump and Melania Trump sent the Scotts a letter wishing them a happy anniversary.

In addition to seven children, Scott and Betty have countless grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Christine lives across the driveway from the couple in Spanaway. Despite Scott’s sense of humor and the fact that some of his sons are Vietnam and Korean war veterans themselves, Scott doesn’t talk about the war with his children very often, Christine said.

But Scott does wear a World War II veteran hat on occasion. At the South Hill Mall, where he used to walk, he met other World War II veterans. Over time, the number of them has dwindled.

“It gets to be a rare occurrence,” Scott said. “...There’s a few left, and that’s it. I’m lucky.”

When D-Day comes around, Scott used to take a drink to remember his fallen comrades. Not so much anymore. Now, he hopes others will take pause on Veterans Day to remember.

“I think it wouldn’t hurt if they said a little prayer or a thank-you,” Scott said. “Even if they’re not looking at anybody, just look up and say thank you.”

Allison Needles: 253-597-8507, @herald_allison

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